Students for Justice in Palestine: Holding Andrew Yang accountable

Students for Justice in Palestine , Op-Ed Contributor

Northwestern College Democrats hosted Andrew Yang, a faux progressive who recently left the Democratic Party, as their fall speaker earlier this week.

While Yang is seen by many of his supporters as progressive, he fails to extend his progressivism to policing and Palestinian liberation. To bring these issues to the forefront, Students for Justice in Palestine and our allies organized a silent walkout during his Tuesday event. Before the event began, we passed out leaflets detailing his staunch support of Israel during a specific time of heightened oppression this spring. As we walked out, more than 60 of us wore Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, a historical symbol of resistance, and proudly held up Palestinian flags.

We walked out to call attention to Yang’s vocalized support of the state of Israel, which came during a time when the Israeli government was carrying out large-scale violence against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza. We walked out because Yang refuses to condemn Israel’s war crimes and apartheid policies — specifically its forced evictions and ethnic cleansing, which are key markers of the genocide against Palestinians. 

Last year, when asked by a Spectrum News NY1 reporter about his stance, Yang failed to explain why Israel was bombing Gaza and also refused to condemn Israel’s airstrikes. Yang has never acknowledged the overwhelming number of Palestinian lives lost. He has chosen to avoid speaking about the deteriorating Palestinian condition due to the Israeli apartheid. Rather, his only references to Palestinians are in relation to terrorism, a common tactic used to frame Israel as the victim.

We also wanted to bring to light Yang’s domestic pro-police views, which are inextricable with militarism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. During Yang’s campaign for New York City mayor, he supported increasing the number of New York City Police Department officers and was endorsed by the Captains Endowment Association, a union that represents high-ranking NYPD executives.

According to the Deadly Exchange Research Report, NYPD and the Israel Defense Forces share infomation and tactics on how to suppress both Black and Palestinian activists. During the event, we sought to collectively increase visibility of these issues by making our bodies, symbols and flags visible. Information was shared online and in person prior to the event with flyers. These flyers included Yang’s tweet expressing support for Israel and information about his stance on increasing policing, with an explanation of our opposition to his stance.

We did not protest Yang’s invitation to speak. We encourage discourse and debate. However, speaker events with major politicians like Yang do not facilitate the open exchange of ideas. Yang comes with a preconceived political narrative that he is not looking to revise based on input from students. He has voters and financiers to cater to, and we wanted to make it known, loud and clear, that it is unacceptable to lie to the public about the devastation in Palestine. Our target audience was the students who came to see Yang speak, as well as Yang himself. Many people call themselves progressive, yet hypocritically fail to stand up for Palestine. 

College Democrats advertised the event as a Q&A and “Conversation with Andrew Yang.” But students could only submit questions to Yang through an online form, which was screened in advance. The advertisement was deceptive, since no productive engagement was actually allowed to take place. Yang was dismissive when an audience member asked a question on their own accord about his views on policing and the genocide of Palestinians, responding, “I can talk to you later about this privately.” After the event, he refused to speak to students and dodged reporters’ questions about both the walkout and Palestine.SJP will continue to advocate for Palestinian liberation on NU’s campus. We hope our peers of all political identities will take time to reflect on the purpose and context behind Tuesday’s action. Yang failed to take the progressive, moral stance for Palestine — Northwestern students should not allow themselves to make the same mistake.

Until liberation, 

Northwestern’s Students for Justice in Palestine 

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization advocating for Palestinian liberation. SJP can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.